Review: Super Mario Galaxy (~18 hours)

A year into the release of the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo released a “hardcore” Mario game. Though the Wii was designed to make gaming appeal to different demographics, the big N didn’t want to leave their core audience behind. What we got is a game that puts Mario in outer space, and that has a lot of platforming puzzles that lead to star-finding victories as satisfying as (if not more satisfying than) those of Super Mario 64, eleven years later.

None of the jumps are lost from Super Mario 64. You still have the triple jump, long jump, side jump, and back flip. It doesn’t feel as precise, and there might be a reason. Nintendo borrowed the sphere walking technology from the Mario 128 tech demo, originally used to promote the GameCube. In Super Mario Galaxy, you might be on a small planet and perform a long jump, only to notice it carries you in a funny way, because you start circling the planet in part because the gravity isn’t as strong.

There is no telling how many stars are in a “galaxy”. It could be one, it could be five. But it adds up to 120 stars, as you’d expect. Still, it is more complicated than before. There are “Grand Stars,” which help steer the spaceship that acts as a hub in the game. Then there are three green stars, which give you access to trial galaxies. They all count as stars, but clearly Nintendo was trying to add new objects of interest to the game.

Game play exists within a galaxy. If you’re like me, you’ll collect every star bit and coin you can find. Star bits are new. Being a Wii game, it encourages you to point the remote at the screen. If you point at a star bit, you collect it. Every fifty star bits give you an extra life, which is reminiscent of Super Mario World, where you start to have more lives than you need.

Bosses are once again frequent, but unlike Super Mario Sunshine (this game’s predecessor), they are not a chore. They all work in intervals of three. Hit the target three times. Expose a weak side three times and hit the three weak spots there three times. You will know what to do. This is true of most of the game. You will probably be fine without a strategy guide or FAQ.

The biggest departure from the last two games is the level design, which is very linear. You can be on a planet looking for the five pieces of a launch star to carry you farther. You can be on a series of rotating / disappearing / electric bar surrounding / being attacked by bullets (and on) platforms that lead you to a star. Again, one of two things total I like in Super Mario Sunshine is the challenge courses, and this game has taken that idea and run with it. There’s a lot to like about the game’s level design—in fact, I’d say it’s this game’s strong suit.

Of course, my first play through, I got all 120 stars, and believe me, it’s worth your while. Now that the game is more than ten years old, I can just tell you, the reward is you can play as Luigi. The soundtrack is orchestrated and triumphant. I didn’t expect memories to come back looking into Super Mario Galaxy a second time, but they really did. It only takes a number of hours, maybe a couple of days, but you get that satisfying feeling after 120 stars. The only downside is the team didn’t reinvent the wheel since Super Mario 64. Instead, they got new tires and polished the hub caps like crazy.

4/5

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